City Wi Fi Talk in the air
As City Manager it is not unusual to get quoted in the paper. What was unusual was the amount of positive comments I received from people regarding a recent headline in the Record Courier announcing my interest to expand Kent Wi Fi opportunities. Given the number of people who have called and offered their support for the idea, I’d like to continue that conversation and see if we can round-up some Kent experts and take advantage of the technology resources that are already here.
I am no Wi Fi expert but I’ve been doing my homework and the truth is you don’t have to look very hard before you find a lot of excellent examples of cities using Wi Fi technology to be a catalyst for new technology businesses. After bouncing around big city examples, I found a great example of a medium sized city that partnered with the state university in town, the University of Georgia in Athens.
The City of Athens and the University saw an opportunity to collaborate and establish themselves as a nationally recognized center for mobile technology of which Wi Fi is a small but important piece. They were thinking big and working together to achieve big. I immediately thought of Kent and Kent State.
To get started they created an excellent Market Report on Wi Fi which summarizes the state of Wi Fi roll out in a number of cities. Reports in this field get old in a hurry given the rapid state of technology evolution so there’s probably even better ones and if anyone knows of any I’d love to hear about them.
Here’s an excerpted summary of the Athens and University of Georgia project that captures exactly the kind of impact I think is possible here in Kent.
Athens and the WAGz
Our goal is to discover the future of mobile media; lucky for us, there’s no better place to do it than here. Athens, Georgia oozes creativity – in music, art, literature, and business. The Classic City understands the power of experimentation. So downtown Athens provides the ideal opportunity for tinkering with mobile media content. In the 24-block area of downtown Athens immediately adjacent to UGA, there are retail businesses and service providers, entertainment and dining venues, government offices, residential complexes . . . all within one wireless cloud.
The Wireless Athens Georgia Zone (WAGz) lights the public areas of downtown Athens with WiFi (802.11b) connectivity. Anyone with a WiFi-enabled device can access information about Athens and web-based projects designed by NMI students. In the WAGz, people can send and receive a variety of text, audio, and video information.
But the WAGz really isn’t about wireless technology. The WAGz is a mobile media sandbox in which we want to discover the compelling applications for wireless. The WAGz provides us with a real-world research test-bed where we can explore the types of mobile media content that will drive the wireless industry.
The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government has been an active supporter of our wireless initiatives, providing the power and poles to build our wireless cloud over Athens. And downtown companies are involved in exploring ways wireless can help streamline their businesses.
At the heart of Athens is the 605-acre University of Georgia campus, where technology plays an important role in almost every field. UGA’s comprehensive disciplines create an opportunity to apply wide-ranging knowledge to the mobile media examination. Faculty, staff, and students from all over UGA are playing important parts in the NMI wireless initiatives.
Related Information”…heavy with connections, communications and – mostly – possibilities.. And there are other, quirkier possibilities that play to the singularity that is Athens.”
New Media Institute
University of Georgia
To get the full flavor check out the web site for the Mobile Media Consortium and see if you don’t get as excited as I was when I read about the possibilities. I saw another interesting summary article in the National League of Cities newsletter (see page 2).
So where do we go from here in Kent?
Kent State University has some exceptional technology and communication resources and I hope we can build our own consortium. But in the meantime, I need to understand the other resources here in town and to hear from you.
Even to get started, I’d like to know where Wi Fi is currently available in Kent. I’ve seen it advertised in a couple of places but I’d like to start our own informal Kent inventory, so if you know of locations, please let me know. And likewise, if you know of people I should be talking to, also please let me know or have them contact me.
I’m sure there’s plenty of reasons we could come up with why this won’t work in Kent but I’m stubborn about not letting go of good ideas and I’ll keep asking “WHY NOT?”